The History Of Doom Metal Part Three: Alternative Doom

Written by: Aristarchos
Published: 08.03.2013
In California in the early 80's hardcore punk was at its peak. One of the biggest bands in the scene was Black Flag, who released their classic debut Damaged in 1981, one of the most influential albums for the hardcore genre. The expectations were towering among the hardcore fans when they released their follow-up three years later. However, My War, as the follower would be titled, turned out to be a big disappointment for most hardcorers. It was much slower than its predecessor, and much more influenced by metal, especially by Black Sabbath.

In Seattle a band called the Melvins was formed in 1983. Unlike many others at that time, the Melvins really liked Black Flag's 1984 album and based their sound around it.

For most people (at least outside this community) the Melvins is most famous as a predecessor for grunge, most of the big grunge bands mentions them as an influence. But now grunge is not within the frame for doom metal, so I won't talk more about that scene. Instead I will talk about all the other genres the Melvins has influenced. Almost all of the bands that will be discussed in this article has mentioned the Melvins as a big influence.

In 1986, the Melvins released their debut EP Six Songs, and the following year their debut album Gluey Porch Treatments. These recordings are often seen as the start of the sludge metal genre. Sludge is a genre that combines doom metal and hardcore punk, how contradictory it may sound. Sludge metal was in the beginning often referred to as doomcore, but since that term became common to describe a form of techno, sludge metal (or sludge doom metal) became the dominant term of this form of metal/hardcore. Apart from Black Flag, slower noise rock bands like Flipper and Swans were also big influences for the Melvins' sound.

I will return to the Melvins' evolution later in this article, but now I will turn on to another hugely influential band.

British Godflesh was formed in 1988 by former Napalm Death-guitarist Justin Broadrick. They debuted in 1988 with the EP Godflesh and in 1989 with the album Streetcleaner, both truly ground-breaking releases. Godflesh weren't exactly sludge metal (although sometimes labeled as that), instead they are one of the first bands in the industrial metal genre (and the most extreme of the early industrial metal bands), but the impact they had on the genres discussed below was enormous; only Black Flag and the Melvins could be said to be more influential on the bands discussed in this article.

Some people deny the Melvins' labeling as sludge, and claim that the first bands that really could be called sludge metal are Eyehategod and Crowbar, both from New Orleans, USA (like many other sludge bands; if I don't write which country a band is from, they are probably Americans).

Eyehategod was formed in 1988. They released two demos in 1989 resp. 1990 and album debuted in 1992 with In The Name Of Suffering. In The Name Of Suffering is more primitive, raw and closer to hardcore than their later material, but on their second album Take As Needed For Pain they got a much cleaner sound. They have released two more studio albums since.

Crowbar was formed in 1989, and debuted in 1991, with their album Obedience Thru Suffering. The band is still active and has released nine studio albums. They have mentioned hardcore/crossover thrash band Carnivore (with Peter Steele, who later would form the band Type O Negative) as one of their main influences.

Other early sludge metal bands include Acid Bath (formed in 1991, debuted 1994), Buzzov•en (formed in 1989, debuted with an EP in 1991, a full length in 1993), 16 (formed in 1991, debuted with an EP in 1992, a full length in 1993), Grief (USA) (formed in 1991, debuted with an EP in 1992, a full length in 1993) and Fudge Tunnel (formed in 1989, debuted in 1991). Iron Monkey (formed in 1994, debuted in 1996) and the Japanese Corrupted (formed in 1994, debuted in 1997) followed.

(To be honest, most of these bands mentioned above are bands I haven't listened to so I cannot give any good description of these bands' sound. There may be important parts that I have left out.)

The most famous band that is often called sludge (or at least apart from Melvins) is probably Down (a super group consisting of Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo among others; they are sometimes referred to as southern metal, if you want to accept that as a genre). They were formed in 1991 and have released three albums. The first one, NOLA, was released in 1995.

A very influential band in the sludge field is Neurosis. They were formed in 1985 as a hardcore punk band. After two hardcore albums, they released their album Souls At Zero in 1992. This album starts their evolution to an atmospheric sludge metal sound, something they would continue on with their influential releases Enemy Of The Sun (1993) and Through Silver In Blood (1996), an evolution that would lead to the post metal genre, a metal genre with influences from post rock.

There are discussions whether post metal really deserves the status as a genre on its own, and also what bands really deserves to be counted into that. Godflesh was a hugely influential band for that genre and Neurosis too (both bands had elements of the genre), but some people claim that the first true post metal band was Isis. Isis was formed in 1997, and debuted in 2000 with Celestial. Their second album Oceanic, released in 2002, is what many people consider to be the first true post metal album.

Swedish Cult Of Luna was another very influential band for the post metal genre. They were formed in 1998 and debuted in 2001 with Cult Of Luna, which also is their heaviest and most doomy album. Tool has sometimes also been referred to as post-metal, although most people deny them that status. At least they had a big influence on the genre. Tool has mentioned Melvins as one of their biggest influences, but they don't have much in common with doom, rather they are referred to only as alternative metal, or sometimes as progressive metal. Helmet was also a big influence for post metal, and is also sometimes labeled as post metal, but more often as alternative metal or post-hardcore.

Later bands that have been labeled as post metal include Pelican, Rosetta, Callisto and Jesu (Godflesh's Justin Broadrick's new band; sometimes also labelled as drone metal).

In 1999, the band Mastodon was formed; they would come to mix sludge metal with prog metal. Mastodon debuted in 2002 with their album Remission and have since released another four albums. Mastodon is perhaps the most critically acclaimed metal bands of the 2000's. All their albums are appraised, but the most praise have been given to the 2004 album Leviathan and to their 2009 album Crack The Skye.

Mastodon was followed by Kylesa, who plays a less complex and more easy-listening form of sludge than Mastodon, and is my personal favourite sludge metal band. The albums Static Tensions (2009) and Spiral Shadow (2010) are recommended.

Now I will move on to another genre hugely influenced by Black Flag and Melvins, namely stoner metal (sometimes referred to as desert metal, stoner doom metal or psychedlic doom metal). Stoner metal is often described as a slower and heavier form of stoner rock, although only some of them has a clear element of doom. Stoner has a long pre-history that even pre-dates the history of heavy metal.

Sir Lord Baltimore is often referred to as "the godfathers of stoner-rock", and they at least bordered heavy metal. Their debut album Kingdom Come was, upon its release in 1970, probably the heaviest album released, along with Black Sabbath's first two albums (and perhaps Led Zeppelin's II). In a review of the album Mike Saunders wrote "...Sir Lord Baltimore seems to have down pat most all the best heavy metal tricks in the book", which is one of the earliest printed use of the term heavy metal that is preserved. I think Kingdom Come is heavy enough to be considered metal, but the song structures don't sound metal.

Some people want to go even further back in time to search for the start of the stoner rock/metal genre. Blue Cheer's 1968 debut Vincebus Eruptum is sometimes referred to as the first stoner rock album. The song "Summertime Blues" from the album is often seen as the first true heavy metal song ever (something I agree with), but that is the only song on the album that I can accept as metal.

The true definition of stoner is diffuse, and a lot of other psychedelic 60's bands are sometimes labelled as stoner rock, but these have at least nothing to do with metal. Black Sabbath was of course a big influence for this genre too, but they have been discussed in my first part of the history of doom. 70's Blue Öyster Cult was also a big influence for the genre.

The first bands to often be labeled as stoner metal are Kyuss and Sleep.

Kyuss was formed in 1987, and debuted in 1991 with Wreth, but it is their second album Blues For The Red Sun that is often referred to as their masterpiece and is often called the first true stoner rock/metal album. Kyuss has mentioned Black Flag's My War album as their biggest influence. Compared to Sleep, Kyuss was lighter and not that doomy, and had as much in common with rock as with metal, and have probably influenced more stoner rock bands than stoner metal bands. They also had some mainstream success, and their frontman Josh Homme would later have even more mainstream success with his later band Queens Of The Stone Age, but they have nothing to do with metal.

Sleep on the other hand was way heavier, and there are no doubts that they could be considered a doom metal band. Sleep was formed in 1990 and debuted in 1991 with Volume One, but it is their third album Sleep's Holy Mountain that is their most classic one.

I have in my first part of The History Of Doom Metal already mentioned that bands that started in a more traditional doom metal vein like Trouble and Cathedral turned into a more stoner metallic vein, so I won't say anything more about them here. Other notable bands in the stoner metal genre are Acid King, Orange Goblin, Sons Of Otis and High On Fire (sometimes also labeled as sludge metal).

Corrosion Of Conformity started in 1982 as a crossover thrash band. In the 1990's they changed their sound to what is often considered stoner metal, although sometimes referred to as southern metal and also sludge metal.

British Electric Wizard is sometimes referred to as sludge metal, but most of the time as a stoner metal band. They were formed in 1993 and debuted in 1995 with their eponymous album, but it is their two followers Come My Fanatics (1997) and Dopethrone (2000) that are often considered their most classic albums. Electric Wizard is sometimes referred to as the heaviest band on Earth, but I guess many bands have been called that.

I promised earlier I would return to Melvins' later evolution, and for a reason. After the release of their debut album in 1987, they would release two more albums in the sludge metal genre, Ozma (1989) and Bullhead (1991). Bullhead, though, saw a little change in style, especially in the opening song "Boris", which is longer than their earlier songs, and is often seen as a predecessor for the drone metal (or drone doom metal) genre; a genre centered around repetitive sounds, lengthy slow heavy songs and often a large amount of feedback. On their next album Lysol from 1992, Melvins would continue this evolution, and perhaps this could be called the first drone metal album. On their next album Houdini, they returned to a more pure sludge sound.

Godflesh is also mentioned as a big influence on the drone metal genre. But there was one band that would take the droning farther than anyone before them: Earth.

Earth took their name from the original name of Black Sabbath. They were formed in 1989 in Seattle and released their first EP, Extra-Capsular Extraction, in 1991. In 1993 they released their debut album Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version . After another two albums they disbanded, but re-formed in 2001 and have since released another four albums. Earth's music is nearly instrumental. After the reunion they changed their sound and included influences from country, jazz and English folk rock.

The most notable bands that would follow Earth are also Seattle-based Sunn O))) (pronounced Sunn, named after the amplifier; formed in 1998, and debuted in 2000) and Japanese Boris (named after the Melvins song earlier mentioned; formed in 1992 and debuted in 1996).

Drone metal is often considered the most difficult form of doom metal to get into, but a good recommendation for starting is The Angelic Process's album Weighing Souls With Sand from 2007.

This was the last part of my series about the history of doom metal. Next I'm going to write an article about the history of prog metal...


 
Guest article disclaimer:
This is a guest article, which means it does not necessarily represent the point of view of the MS Staff.




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Aristarchos - 08.03.2013 at 18:16  
What more could be mentioned is the band Soilent Green. They debuted in 1995 and was the first band to mix sludge with grincore.

I know I'm not the most appropriate person to write about this part of the metal history since I'm not a huge fan of this kind of metal - when talking doom I'm most into trad doom - but after my first two parts of the history of doom I couldn't leave out this one, since this is also an important part of metal, and noone else had written about it.

I really enjoy writing these articles, and I often learn some things myself by doing research for them. I usually try to check out all the bands I write about before I write this article, but this time I was too avid, since there were too many new bands to check out (especially in early sludge), and these are not my genres, but I have since I wrote the article checked out most of the bands. I really like Eyehategod, and also enjoy some of the more atmospheric sludge bands, but I still must say that most of the early sludge bands wasn't anything for me, although I do respect them.

You can count with I will continue writing articles about different parts of the history of metal.
mz - 09.03.2013 at 00:09  
Well, thank you for this informative article. I will use to get into sludge. Also, I am waiting for your history of prog metal. Wish it be as interesting as your doom history
Aristarchos - 09.03.2013 at 15:59  
Written by mz on 09.03.2013 at 00:09

Well, thank you for this informative article. I will use to get into sludge. Also, I am waiting for your history of prog metal. Wish it be as interesting as your doom history

Thank you. I hope you will find the history of prog metal interesting too. It will only be in one part.
Bad English - 15.03.2013 at 02:07  
Well maybe not realy my type of doom, but I can listen some bands sometimes, Orange Goblin, Eletric Wizard, Cathedral and such, Blue Chear , Sir Lord baltimore.... rest is maybe some times in free time. I like Soutern rock, stoner metlk, stoner doom, but slufdge, industrial, hard core punk , crossower is not realy my cup of tea
Well Norlands Guld --- if somebody buy it to me I drink it, but by my self I never buy it, same whit this kind of doom, I can listen it but its not my fav
I am more in part 1 and 2 type of bands

PS since you're from Göteborg , dont take it so hard 4-0 i serien and hejdå Frölunda :p
NocturnalStalker - 23.03.2013 at 18:28  
Once again thanks for the article. I already knew most of those bands but I noted some to check them out later.
I'll be looking forward to the next one.
Aristarchos - 24.07.2013 at 10:38  
I discovered the band Blindead which I like and didn't mention. Great band from Poland, often described as progressive sludge. Also, I see that Ghost Brigade is called sludge on this site. For me they sound more like Katatonia, but perhaps there is some sludge in it. i have also seen the great icelandic band Solstafir being labelled as sludge, but I guess they are more of post.
Marcel Hubregtse - 29.09.2013 at 18:53  
The term doomcore was never used back in the day at all. No idea where you got that idea from
Aristarchos - 02.10.2013 at 18:57  
Written by Marcel Hubregtse on 29.09.2013 at 18:53

The term doomcore was never used back in the day at all. No idea where you got that idea from

I got it from an interview with Crowbar. Just because you never used it doesn't mean it has never been used.
Marcel Hubregtse - 03.10.2013 at 02:19  
Written by Aristarchos on 02.10.2013 at 18:57

Written by Marcel Hubregtse on 29.09.2013 at 18:53

The term doomcore was never used back in the day at all. No idea where you got that idea from

I got it from an interview with Crowbar. Just because you never used it doesn't mean it has never been used.



not a single magazine ever used it either at the time and not even bands (except for Crowbar apparently)
BitterCOld - 06.10.2013 at 03:03  
Godflesh as sludge? huh? if anything it was occasionally lumped alongside death metal due to them being on Earache. That's where I first heard of them in '91 - a Spin mag article about the whole DM scene.
Marcel Hubregtse - 06.10.2013 at 13:27  
Written by BitterCOld on 06.10.2013 at 03:03

Godflesh as sludge? huh? if anything it was occasionally lumped alongside death metal due to them being on Earache. That's where I first heard of them in '91 - a Spin mag article about the whole DM scene.



I missed that. Damn. They have never been labeled as sludge. Like you said death metal because of Earache and also Industrial quite a lot back in the day. But not sludge or drone.
BitterCOld - 06.10.2013 at 19:50  
Written by Marcel Hubregtse on 06.10.2013 at 13:27


I missed that. Damn. They have never been labeled as sludge. Like you said death metal because of Earache and also Industrial quite a lot back in the day. But not sludge or drone.


And even then they were just the sidecar on the DM motorcycle. death by label association.
Aristarchos - 07.10.2013 at 17:35  
Written by Marcel Hubregtse on 03.10.2013 at 02:19

Written by Aristarchos on 02.10.2013 at 18:57

Written by Marcel Hubregtse on 29.09.2013 at 18:53

The term doomcore was never used back in the day at all. No idea where you got that idea from

I got it from an interview with Crowbar. Just because you never used it doesn't mean it has never been used.



not a single magazine ever used it either at the time and not even bands (except for Crowbar apparently)

I highly doubt that you have read all the magazines of that time, and I put more trust into Kirk from Crowbar than into you.

In the interview it says it was used in Europe, and Kirk said he has always preferred the word doomcore over sludge, because it says more of the sound.
Aristarchos - 07.10.2013 at 17:45  
Written by Marcel Hubregtse on 06.10.2013 at 13:27

Written by BitterCOld on 06.10.2013 at 03:03

Godflesh as sludge? huh? if anything it was occasionally lumped alongside death metal due to them being on Earache. That's where I first heard of them in '91 - a Spin mag article about the whole DM scene.



I missed that. Damn. They have never been labeled as sludge. Like you said death metal because of Earache and also Industrial quite a lot back in the day. But not sludge or drone.

Once again, just because you have never seen them being labelled as sludge, doesn't mean they haven't been labelled as such, although not generally, and not by people who know. Just click on this link and see what RYM call them: http://rateyourmusic.com/artist/godflesh.

I was myself surprised when I saw that, because I have never thought of them as sludge either, why I wrote in the article the word sludge was incorrect for them. Now RYM has stopped calling Streetcleaner sludge, which they did before, but still calls Selfless sludge. I must admit I haven't checked out that album, but I have heard Streetcleaner.

The reason I included Godflesh is that they have had a big impact on some of the sub-genres I discussed like post and drone metal (or at least according to what I have read)
Aristarchos - 07.10.2013 at 17:46  
I have also seen Godflesh being labelled as grindcore, but I guess that's just because of their association with Napalm Death.
Marcel Hubregtse - 07.10.2013 at 18:39  
Written by Aristarchos on 07.10.2013 at 17:35


I highly doubt that you have read all the magazines of that time, and I put more trust into Kirk from Crowbar than into you.

In the interview it says it was used in Europe, and Kirk said he has always preferred the word doomcore over sludge, because it says more of the sound.



I live in Europe now and at the time and let me guarantee you it was not used here. As for magazines I read both the big and important metal and music magazines as well as fanzines and really not a single one used it, unless it would have been the most marginal of the marginal.

As for trusting an artist naming their own genre... So you also trust Alexi Laiho when he called Children Of Bodom black metal?
Aristarchos - 08.10.2013 at 18:31  
Written by Marcel Hubregtse on 07.10.2013 at 18:39

Written by Aristarchos on 07.10.2013 at 17:35


I highly doubt that you have read all the magazines of that time, and I put more trust into Kirk from Crowbar than into you.

In the interview it says it was used in Europe, and Kirk said he has always preferred the word doomcore over sludge, because it says more of the sound.



I live in Europe now and at the time and let me guarantee you it was not used here. As for magazines I read both the big and important metal and music magazines as well as fanzines and really not a single one used it, unless it would have been the most marginal of the marginal.

As for trusting an artist naming their own genre... So you also trust Alexi Laiho when he called Children Of Bodom black metal?

I trust you it wasn't used very much, but since Kirk mentioned it I guess it must have been used somewhere. And with CoB, it is difference between puting a band into a genre and give a genre a name, which was the case with doomcore.
Aristarchos - 11.10.2013 at 17:04  
Written by BitterCOld on 06.10.2013 at 03:03

Godflesh as sludge? huh? if anything it was occasionally lumped alongside death metal due to them being on Earache. That's where I first heard of them in '91 - a Spin mag article about the whole DM scene.

I haven't listened much to Godflesh, but I have never thought of them as death metal either. As I remember it they sounded closer to some form of doom than to death metal, although I only label them as industrial.

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